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J Leukoc Biol. 2004 Feb;75(2):342-9. Epub 2003 Nov 21.

Age-dependent decrease in Toll-like receptor 4-mediated proinflammatory cytokine production and mitogen-activated protein kinase expression.

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  • 1Neurobiology and Anatomy, Loyola University Medical Center, 2160 South First Avenue, Bldg. 110, Rm. 4220, Maywood, IL 60153, USA.


Age-related changes in immunity render elderly individuals more susceptible to infections than the young. Previous work by our laboratory and others showed that macrophages from aged mice are functionally impaired. Macrophages produce proinflammatory cytokines, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin (IL)-6, when stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which signals through Toll-like receptor-4 (TLR4) and requires activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs). We investigated whether aging is associated with alterations in TNF-alpha and IL-6 production and MAPK expression and activation in thioglycollate-elicited peritoneal macrophages from mice. Kinetics and LPS dose-responsiveness of macrophage TNF-alpha production did not differ by age. Unstimulated macrophages did not differ by age in their cytokine production. However, LPS-stimulated (100 ng/mL) cultures from aged mice produced 100 +/- 30 pg/mL TNF-alpha and 6000 +/- 2000 pg/mL IL-6, and those from young mice produced 280 +/- 50 pg/mL and 10,650 +/- 10 pg/mL, respectively (P<0.05). Likewise, levels of activated MAPKs did not differ by age in unstimulated macrophages, and LPS-stimulated macrophages from aged mice had <70% activated p38 and c-jun NH(2)-terminal kinase (JNK) than those of young controls. Of particular interest, we observed >25% reduction of total p38 and JNK in macrophages from aged mice relative to young. In addition, surface TLR4 levels did not vary with age. We conclude that macrophages from aged mice exhibited suppressed proinflammatory cytokine production, which correlated with diminished total levels and LPS-stimulated activation of p38 and JNK. These observations suggest that decreased MAPK expression could be a mechanism responsible for age-related deterioration of the immune system.

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